Category: Travel discussion

Are the best places to live also the best places to visit?

So the top 5 places to live are, according to this article, at least:

1. Vienna, Austria
2. Zurich, Switzerland
3. Auckland, New Zealand
4. Munich, Germany
5. Vancouver, Canada

I find it interesting that the best places to live, with one exception, are freezing cold in winter. Apparently the people figuring this stuff out have good coats and thick socks.

Vienna, of course, is a huge tourist destination. I’ve never been, but some friends are going to take me swimming in the Danube River when I do get there. And, interestingly, the first job outside the US I ever applied for was in Vienna – I sometimes imagine if I had moved to Vienna instead of Korea back in 2001. One day, I will go.

Zurich. I’ve actually been here. Nice enough place to visit but the restaurant prices are shocking. My guess would be that it’s a better place to live than it is to visit. If we hadn’t lucked out and gotten upgraded to a suite with a kitchen, I’d probably still be cursing Zurich’s food prices.

Never been to Auckland, but I’m sure it’s a great place to visit. Just a long flight past other places I’ve never been.

Munich. I was there for the Christmas market. I’d like to see some other Christmas markets, but Munich was great and definitely one of the top places in the world to visit (check out this cool travel plan or this one). Most probably think of Oktoberfest, but that’s not when I would go. The Christmas Market was amazing but Munich is freezing in December. And so many cool daytrips are possible: Salzburg, Landshut, and Neuschwanstein to name a few.

Vancouver
is another place I’ve never been. I’ve heard it’s nice but I never thought it was in the same league as Vienna or Munich.

Anthony Bourdain fighting the Travel Channel

Not too long ago I talked about Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Collection 7. Today I happened to be scanning the news and his name popped up again. Seems he’s mad at the Travel Channel. I’ll give you my summary below, but if you want to hear it straight from Mr. Bourdain, visit his Tumblr page and find the “fighting mad” headline.

My little summary: Anthony Bourdain says he tries not to endorse products because he wants to say what he thinks and he wants people to believe him when he does. He did once take money from a credit card company and he got a car from BMW in exchange for driving one of their products but otherwise he’s pure. Until now.

Travel Channel took some Bourdain footage and turned it into a Cadillac commercial. According the the No Reservations writer, executive producer, and star, his contract does not allow that sort of thing to be done without his permission.

What I find slightly more interesting than the public relations and presumably legal battle over whether the Travel Channel should have used Mr. Bourdain’s image to make a commercial without asking him, is what he has to say about the Travel Channel’s new management. Considering that we were asking years ago why there were so few travel shows on the Travel Channel, hearing their star say they have been getting worse over the past year or two is cause to abandon hope. And that’s what he says – things are taking a turn for the worse over at travel Channel management.

Any time a passenger requests a private screening, they should be granted one

Another TSA controversy. Sometimes I take a shot at defending TSA but not this time. This time they wanted a woman dying from cancer to remove her bandages so they could get a look at the tubes in her torso. Everyone else in line got a glimpse as well. According to the victim, Michelle Dunaj, she suggested a private screening:

“I asked them if they thought that was an appropriate location, and they told me that everything was fine,” she said.

“Any time a passenger requests a private screening, they should be granted one,” Northwest Region spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said.

I’m not sure if that’s technically a request for a private screening, but it shouldn’t take more than a mild suggestion for someone to have the tubes keeping them alive kept private. In fact, TSA should suggest more privacy. And obviously they should be more careful (they ripped one of her saline bags) and polite (they were as rude to her as they are to everyone else). At least they didn’t allow a passenger with a sword on the plane.

Seems American Airlines screwed up by refusing to let Bede Vanderhorst fly

Interesting article here about a lawsuit being brought against American Airlines after they refused to let a family board a plane because, according to the airline, their kid was “excitable, running around, and not acclimated to the environment.”

Joan and Robert Vanderhorst says it’s discrimination because they were flying first class and their kid, Bede, has Down Syndrome. The family told reporters that the airline thought their kid so close to the cockpit might distract the pilot. Personally, I wonder how the pilot could be overly distracted – aren’t they supposed to keep the cockpit door closed?

Eventually, American called airport police to intervene — and the family was booked on a later United Airlines flight. The Vanderhorsts ended up flying economy and say they were not refunded for their upgrade fee, which they were never able to take advantage of. In addition, they say that when they flew United they had to sit in the back and no one was allowed near them.

There’s a video. When you follow that link I give you above, there’s a news video and that contains a cell phone video the mom took. The American Airlines official is telling them they can’t board because Bede is a security risk. Meanwhile the kid is sitting there, better behaved than most airline passengers, calmer than most airline passengers.

If I believe what I see in the video, I have to believe American Airlines is lying. The kid looks like he’d be a great airline passenger. American says he was running around but that’s not what I see. I suppose it’s possible that Bede was misbehaving at some point but with the video evidence, I think American Airlines has another well-deserved public relations fiasco on their hands, not to mention a lawsuit they are likely to lose.

Personally, I would love to see this lead to an apology from American (which they probably owe to 90% of their passengers but we can start with Bede) and a change in policy. It seems that people can get kicked off flights for random, stupid reasons because there is no coherent policy.

Would you get married at a war memorial / museum?

I recently learned that one of Korea’s more popular tourist attractions, the War Memorial of Korea, also has a wedding hall.

It seems strange to me that you would pass all the planes and artillery on the way to a wedding. Of course it also seemed strange to me that they had a Barbie exhibit when I visited the museum in 2006.

Anyway, I’ve yet to speak with a Korean who doesn’t find this pretty odd – this wedding hall in the back of the war memorial. And I have to wonder, who would decide to get married there?

What’s the most romantic spot you’ve found on your travels?

I was just cleaning up some old papers and one of my students was writing about Hong Kong. His local friend introduced him to a restaurant called Aqua Rome, Tokyo and attached bar called Aqua Spirit on Avenue of Stars.

I ordered wagyu beef, lobster, and diablo pizza. The taste was too good to be true. It’s located on the 30th floor of the building and right in front of it is Victoria Harbor so you can fully enjoy the night view of Hong Kong. The atmosphere was so awesome that I will bring my girlfriend here when I propose to her. I strongly recommend this spot. It’s just great.

So this got me thinking, what left such a strong impression on me?

I certainly thought the night views of Hong Kong would be romantic if I hadn’t been traveling with my friend Matt. My wife and I had our honeymoon in Rome and there were some great romantic places there, like Trevi Fountain. And Assisi was probably more romantic – less fancy but older and less crowded. And since then we’ve been to Madrid and Paris – beautiful cities to be sure. But I’d have to say the biggest impact was walking around Le Louvre at night. I remember telling my wife I could go to bed happy every night if I walked around the Louvre before going to sleep.

So why had a similarly big impact on you? Do you know where you’re going to propose? Do you have a spot where a walk a day would make you happy?

Related: Would you honeymoon in Disney World?

What do you do with old travel guide books?

Since I’m in the middle of moving, I find myself wondering which old stuff to keep and which old stuff to get rid of. Among my stuff I never think about using are a number of travel guides like Lonely Planet Italy and a Let’s Go Italy – both purchased before my honeymoon in 2001. And there are lots of other books that aren’t quite as old but are old enough that I’d think twice before using one of them again – if I ever even had the opportunity to use one of them again.

But sadly, I don’t think I’m going back to Turkey or Japan any time soon. So should I throw these books in the garbage? Living in Korea, there aren’t really a lot of charity thrift shops looking for English travel guides so I can’t donate them easily.

Anyway, how long do you keep guide books around? Does anyone get rid of them as soon as they’re done with the vacation they got the book for?

Looking for follow ups to the Andaman Islands’ “human zoo”

Human zoos are, it seems, nothing new, but I’m seeing the term for the first time.

I’m late, the article is a few months old, and talks of the Andaman Islands in India. Other articles from the same time talk of worldwide outrage and the suggestion that the video that sparked this outrage is 6-7 years old.

Looking for more recent articles, I found that Thailand has it’s own Andaman Islands; the area includes Maya Bay (Phi Phi Ley), where The Beach with Leonardo DeCaprio was filmed.

But where is the worldwide news coverage? I figured some enterprising journalist would have done a bit of research and looked to learn if the video was, in fact, 6 years old.

I did find this brief follow up from about a month after the original story broke. And I did find a more recent article on human safaris (similar to the human zoo term it seems) in Peru.

Has anyone seen a more recent article about the investigation (or lack of one) in India?

Exchange student safety

This article says America is not doing enough to protect visiting high school exchange students. It got me thinking about the safety of exchange students. I’m curious how many American high school students ever go abroad to study in a foreign country and how safe they are when they do. And while college students should be better equipped to live on their own, how safe are they when they do semester abroad programs and such?

And a similar question for my non-American readers – would you or did you send your kids to study in America. What, if anything, worried you when you did?

Would you travel to watch turtles lay eggs?

I recently got a press release about stuff going on in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.There was one thing that made me stop and think – what’s the point in watching sea turtles lay eggs? And it’s somewhat funny that I think this way because I could see watching a turtle laying on the beach as being pretty great.

Turtle Time. Experience the circle of life as three endangered sea turtle species gather during the summer nights to lay their eggs. Families can enjoy guided nighttime “Turtle Walks” at various locations throughout the area starting in June and July, including the Moonlight, Sea Turtles and You! at the Museum of Discovery & Science, Sea Turtle Awareness at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach and Sea Turtles and Their Babies at Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park in Hollywood. These turtle nesting programs offer travelers the opportunity to get reacquainted with nature up close. Visit http://www.sunny.org/visitors/beaches/seaturtles

I did have a student once who volunteered in Mexico to actually do some work with turtle eggs to protect them – that makes perfect sense to me. But watching them lay eggs? I mean I get that seeing the turtles is cool – I was hoping to see some when I was in Hawaii recently, but I’m still not sure I’d want to see them nesting without actually doing something or somehow volunteering to be a part of things.